Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Complacencies, writing, Burbank and stoplights : To Lueza

I sat at a stoplight the other afternoon in Burbank, the sun going down. The light stayed red for some time and when it turned green the cars ahead shot through in a strange syncopation, one black, one white, a chaotic (coming straight at me) yet ordered (they missed me with precision) checkerboard. A plane slanted through the sky, impossible, the traffic light dangled and when I remembered to press the pedal to move, I imagined my car lifting up over the line ahead, the white turned to metallic shimmer, needle nose forward. Someone slammed a car horn, and my foot responded, the setting sun slanted its light, loud and insistent, and I was in my car, the sky ahead blue and clear.

Does a writer ever have unprocessed experience? That's what I'm thinking about this morning -- the ability to make narrative as things unfold, something more than note-taking and less than creation, the spinning of story and the making things up as one goes, the complacencies of the peignoir, the green freedom of a cockatoo (no green cockatoo exists in nature), Lueza's eighteenth birthday (she is not here) and these two verses from a poem by Wallace Stevens:

Sunday Morning


Complacencies of the peignoir, and late
Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair,
And the green freedom of a cockatoo
Upon a rug mingle to dissipate
The holy hush of ancient sacrifice.
She dreams a little, and she feels the dark
Encroachment of that old catastrophe,
As a calm darkens among water-lights.
The pungent oranges and bright, green wings
Seem things in some procession of the dead,
Winding across wide water, without sound.
The day is like wide water, without sound,
Stilled for the passing of her dreaming feet
Over the seas, to silent Palestine,
Dominion of the blood and sepulchre.


Why should she give her bounty to the dead?
What is divinity if it can come
Only in silent shadows and in dreams?
Shall she not find in comforts of the sun,
In pungent fruit and bright green wings, or else
In any balm or beauty of the earth,
Things to be cherished like the thought of heaven?
Divinity must live within herself:
Passions of rain, or moods in falling snow;
Grievings in loneliness, or unsubdued
Elations when the forest blooms; gusty
Emotions on wet roads on autumn nights;
All pleasures and all pains, remembering
The bough of summer and the winter branch.
These are the measures destined for her soul. 

from Sunday Morning by Wallace Stevens (1879-1955)


  1. so beautiful, your writing, reflection and then the stanzas. and fitting for an autumn morning. i need to read more Wallace Stevens, i need to read my poetry, period. thank you for the reminder.

  2. Happy Birthday to dear Lueza who is no longer here. 18. Heart wrenching.

    I love all the pieces you have pulled together here. I think you are correct about writers making narrative as things unfold...it's just the way the mind works. I think it happens with creative types in general, though the narrative may be visual or musical.

    What marvelous minds we are lucky to enjoy and explore.

  3. I read once--I think it was Ayelet Waldman but I'm not sure--that even as her heart was breaking, she was taking notes. Her point was that we shouldn't feel guilty, if, when the worst comes, or the best, our writer brain kicks in and we become a sort of meta version of ourselves. I remember her thoughts were along the lines of, "Oh, so people really do put their hands over their mouths. They really do fall to the floor", etc. I am putting this so in-eloquently, but my point is that it seems that no matter what happens, some part of me is quietly observing and remembering. And sometimes that is a blessing.

    Dear Lueza. Divinity lives within herself.

    Thank you for this poem today. It touched me deeply.

  4. Shivers. And no, in answer to your question- I do not think that writers do ever have unprocessed experiences. Not in my experience, anyway. God. You are SUCH a writer.

  5. I'm with Ms. Moon. Thank you for this.

  6. Something more than note-taking, less than creation. Yes. It is process on its way to creation perhaps, the creation of our lives, moment to moment, through this processing of experience.

    Happy 18th birthday dear Lueza, sweet friend to Sophie, teacher of us all, who I imagine somewhere, in flight and free.

  7. I never understand Wallace Stevens.

    However, creative people DO filter all their experiences and process them into their creations -- whether it's writing or photos or incomprehensible poetry. :) Nothing goes unprocessed, I'd say. It's all grist for the mill!

  8. Does a writer ever have unprocessed experience?

    As Nora Ephron famously said, "No matter what happens, it's all copy."



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